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Preparing Together: 3 Ways to Prepare Your College-Bound Child

Being cooped up all the time due to the pandemic has been, to put it mildly, a bit rough. In fact, it’s been completely awful—as a person who feels the most like themselves whenever they’re outdoors doing some sort of activity with their friends, It’s been really hard for me to be stuck inside all the time, and I’m an adult. I have adult ways of dealing with the pain, the isolation, the fear, the stress, and the pressure. When I was a kid in high school, I used to think that there would be nothing better than an extended vacation that would last for months—it’s not that I thought that school was a waste of time, it’s just that, after a long, activity-filled summer, I just couldn’t bring myself to be happy about heading back to a confined classroom. I’m sure I’m not alone in that, and that plenty of today’s students felt the same way: but now, those same kids are probably ready and willing to get back to their friends, their teachers, and their traditional high school experiences. With many schools facing closure, more and more kids are uncertain of their future, and struggling against the crushing weight of expectations—like college and careers—when the world has entirely transformed. As a small business owner and a former high school tutor, I’ve got some tips and tricks towards motivating students and preparing them for what’s to come.  

Stay On it Online

While working with your student at home, you might have noticed that the desire to succeed wears thin, as the weeks grow long. Expert online teachers, like the ones at Mountain Heights Academy, understand why some students naturally succeed in some subjects, while appearing unmotivated in others. To combat this, good teachers often present students with a different take on the subject matter. As a tutor myself, I’ve had students go from feeling as if they’ve hated math, for example—and is more than a grade level behind—to being excited, confident, and catching up to the rest of their class. The really striking cases happen with students who are eager to learn but just didn’t connect to the content. If you show them how they can use mathematics to be creative—to design models, to develop art, illustrations, and animation, and to express their ideas—then you’ve set those students up for new levels of success You and your student can actively restructure their least favorite classes into their favorites.

Fear and Loathing in Lost Classes

The second category of apathy, however is tougher to address—the students who seem unmotivated to do well in anything at all. Here, you won’t overcome their reluctance by teaching the content better. These are often students whose parents aren’t modeling a great attitude at home, and who are dealing with a bunch of stresses and problems already (including a pandemic), before adding homework to their list. “Not caring” about much, including school, can be a defense mechanism; they can’t handle pouring their heart into a subject on the off-chance that they won’t excel immediately, “confirming” that they’re unable to succeed. Right now, it’s hard to trust that things will turn out all right. To reach this student, start with building a strong, trusting relationship first and foremost; using that to foster feelings of safety and confidence. Celebrate small successes. As important as the standardized tests are purported to be, getting through this quarantine with a sense of personal accomplishment—no matter the subject—is fundamental to rebuilding self-worth once the lockdown is lifted.

Far and Away

For students that are actually headed to brick and mortar school for college in the fall, here are three things that you’ll want to consider—and keep in balance—while you plan: 

  • Debt: I know it sounds obvious, but you really want to stay out of it as much as you can. Consider every scholarship opportunity that you can apply for, and simply apply. You’d be surprised at how much money is out there available to you. Don’t turn up your nose at small amounts of money while chasing big chunks of change. They will pay you dividends once you finish college. Be mindful of keeping your expenses low and minimize credit card debt, car loan debt, and discretionary spending ($3 here, $2 there; honestly, it builds up over time). Financial planning is so critical, especially when your future is on the line: but, don’t stress! There are plenty of financial experts out there for you to consult with as you plan. 
  • Schooling: I can’t stress this enough. You will need to find a balance between your social life (which will increase dramatically from a high school setting) and your studying. What I did during my first few years is to find a dedicated studying spot, know your professors/TAs, and always be on top of your assignments. In addition, get to know your fellow students as well; especially the ones who share your major, because most of the time you will see them in other classes as well.
  • Internships: Experience sometimes supersedes grades in the “real world,” and there should be plenty of chances to find online internships during this time of plague. Start looking for internships that are related to your major and your interests. This will give you a taste of how the working world works that sometimes comes with a paycheck. Once you graduate, you will have solid references with professionals, experience (a very important variable), and a working ethic that will extend well within your career.

Keep Your Head Up

I know it sounds difficult now, but if you’re a dedicated student struggling right now, you will get through this. If you keep your “eyes on the prize,” and orient yourself towards success, you really are capable of accomplishing your goals, even in these uncertain times. There are a few things that are certain: you have a life after this, so plan for it as best you can. Pretty soon, you will be achieving goals that will transport you well beyond your formative years at college.

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